Minnesota United had just won a game, a coveted three points for a team below the playoff line, and coach Adrian Heath was mad.
His anger was clear as soon as the final whistle blew, and the coach called his team’s inability to close out games “nonsense” on the TV broadcast. The usually verbose coach then took his tirade to the locker room before settling in for a curt news conference.
“As I’ve just said to the players, for me to be in this mood after we’ve won a game and played so well for 75 minutes is ridiculous,” Heath said. “But we tried to do it against Toronto. We’ve done it on the road. We did it in Colorado. Maybe they’ll start listening to the coaches instead of everything else that’s going around the club.”
Those vague accusations marred a 3-2 victory for the Loons over Real Salt Lake on Saturday. In front of an announced crowd of 23,667 at TCF Bank Stadium, United started off its three-game homestand by improving to 7-11-1. But United is still in ninth place in the Western conference behind Salt Lake, in fourth at 9-9-2.
After a scoreless first half, the Loons scored three goals in the first 23 minutes after halftime, coming from Ibson, Darwin Quintero and Miguel Ibarra. But similar to recent games, United allowed the opponent back into the match when Joao Plata scored twice eight minutes apart, first on a free kick and then on a header.
Against Toronto on July 4, the Loons held a 4-1 lead before allowing two goals in the last 20 minutes to make it close. And before that in a game at Colorado, United took the lead twice before eventually losing in stoppage time.
Center back Michael Boxall said he felt the problem was “mental lapses” in games that should have been “dead and buried.”
“I don’t know what it is,” Boxall said. “… But on the ball, we just make the bad decisions and then we don’t press like we should in the final third and that gives them the opportunity to put easy balls into the box. And when you’re a yard or two off, those margins make it a comfortable game or a few people biting their finger nails there.”
Heath, though, had a different reasoning, saying his players did their best to “throw away” the result because they decided they knew best.
“They do what they want rather than doing what we know is right,” Heath said, declining to fault specific players. “[I want] for them to understand that they don’t know everything. And do what’s asked of them, and we’ll be OK.”
Said Ibarra: “We said he’s right. We’ve got to do better closing out games.”